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Our PR Disaster

We could have done better. Queens prides itself on being the world’s borough and seeing the names of our born-and-bred on lists of people making a difference in fields across the globe.

But in the case of Donald Trump, we have failed. The president, who was raised in Jamaica Estates, turned his back on his Queens roots when he berated the mayor of San Juan and downplayed the severity of the Category 4 hurricane that recently decimated the island of Puerto Rico.

Trump’s response to the hurricanes that rocked Houston and Florida was measured. But Maria’s wrath in Puerto Rico touched off a furious reaction from Trump, who hurled 18 twitter bombs at San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz after she criticized his administration’s slow handling of the relief effort. He defended the federal mission from his private New Jersey golf club as Cruz was living in a homeless shelter with 60 other refugees and working long days on disaster coordination efforts.

The president accused Cruz of bad-mouthing him at the urging of the Democrats. If there was a political edge to Trump’s attacks, it just might be that Cruz was a big Hillary supporter or that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo flew down to San Juan with the first two planeloads of relief supplies after being asked for help by Puerto Rico’s governor.

New York state is home to the largest number of Puerto Ricans living outside the island, but Cuomo is also a possible challenger to Trump come 2020.

Trump’s cavalier attitude became more pronounced during his fact-finding visit to San Juan. Perhaps he forgot the islanders were U.S. citizens, and somehow not waiting for foreign aid, when he said: “I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack.” He made several references to how expensive it was to help the commonwealth, which voted for Clinton, but no such mention of Texas or Florida, which went for him in the election.

As Trump urged Puerto Rican officials and his entourage to praise the U.S. aid effort, he delivered the coup de gras by saying the 16 deaths from Hurricane Maria paled in comparison to “a real catastrophe like Katrina,” which killed thousands.

While Trump was beating his chest on the A-plus American response, he ignored the humanitarian crisis. Americans help other Americans — that is what the U.S. government does in catastrophes — but he blamed Puerto Ricans for not doing more to help themselves.

We were left wondering if there is any role for compassion in this administration beyond the president tossing paper towels at hurricane survivors in a chapel near the San Juan airport.

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